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Showing posts with label vital records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vital records. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cherchez les French-Canadian Ancestors

I am very pleased that The Drouin Collection of (mostly) French-Canadian vital records is now indexed and searchable. My subscription runs out on Friday, which means that I'll have to put off sleeping, eating and bathing until the weekend.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Even God Needs a Good Index

The GRO's digitized index of UK vital records is still a couple of years away, the microfilmed records are scarcely usable, and the paper originals have just been removed from public view.

There will never again be public access to the paper records, the index to where in the country all the births, marriages and deaths were registered, but - as so often with government IT projects - the timetable for the online version intended to replace them has collapsed. According to a spokesman for the Office for National Statistics, which is responsible for the General Records Office, "the present target is to have the online index available by mid-2009".

In the meantime, researchers are invited to use microfiche, which means, one furious researcher said, that "not even God himself is going to be able to find most of this stuff". [Link]
If God is impatient, He can try these resources:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Georgia On My Mind

Renee reports some very, very good news:

FamilySearch and the Georgia Archives announced today that Georgia’s death index from 1919 to 1927 can be accessed for free online. The online index is linked to digital images of the original death certificates. This free database will open doors to additional information for family historians and genealogists with Georgia ties. The index and images can be searched and viewed at (Virtual Vault link) or

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Kind of Town

Some hugely wonderful news out of the Windy City:

If all goes as planned, newly digitized versions of county records such as birth and death certificates and marriage licenses will be available beginning in January on one searchable Web site that will revolutionize how such research is done, [Cook County Clerk David] Orr said.
The Web site is part of a massive yearlong effort to digitize the county's 24 million vital records, which date to 1871, when record-keeping began after the Chicago Fire wiped out previous stockpiles, clerk's office spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. [Link]
If you need some Chicago resources to tide you over until January, check out Joe Beine's Cook County page.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Female Finn Twins Just Can't Win

Virpi Lummaa's interest in Finland's copious church records is purely statistical.

The 33-year-old Finnish biologist, aided by genealogists, has pored through centuries-old tomes (and microfiche) for birth, marriage and death records, which ended up providing glimpses of evolution at work in humanity's recent ancestors. Among them: that male twins disrupt the mating potential of their female siblings by prenatally rendering them more masculine; mothers of sons die sooner than those of daughters, because rearing the former takes a greater toll; and grandmothers are important to the survival of grandchildren. [Link]

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Sensible Policy

Steve Danko visited the New York State Archives and reports that, in that state, you can get death records only for people who are dead.

[T]o obtain marriage and death records for genealogy purposes, the record must be 50 years old and the persons named must be deceased.
So if you need the death record of someone who's still breathing, you're out of luck. I'm all for open access to vital records, but this seems like a sensible policy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Colorado Hides Vital Records

Colorado's searchable database of marriage and divorce records has been taken down as part of the state's war on hypothetical identity theft.

"Given the increasing threat from identity theft, we decided we should take that information to a more confidential level," Ronald Hyman, the state registrar of vital stastics [sic] told the Daily Camera.
According to the Camera, Hyman said his department hasn't gotten any reports of stolen identities, but since the database browsers allowed people to find information such as a mother's maiden name, the Web site was taken down. [Link]
While I applaud this effort to crack down on a nonexistent crime, it does nothing to help those poor Colorado kids whose mothers kept their maiden names or chose to hyphenate. They don't stand a chance.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Reason to Breastfeed

Somers Point, New Jersey, City Councilman Patrick Bingham defends raising the price of a birth certificate from $10 to $20 by making a weird comparison.

“A baby's milk can cost more than that ($10) a day,” Bingham says, adding that “everybody wins” if the city raises the price enough to bring in a part-time worker to process vital documents. “We can supply them five days a week — right now, it's only certain hours and certain days — and sometimes people are coming from out of state for them.” [Link]
"Everybody wins" except the poor baby who must go hungry for a day so mommy and daddy can afford a copy of its birth certificate.
[Photo by Giuseppe Crimeni]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nova Scotia VRs Virtually Readable

Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics are now online. You'll find digitized birth (1864-1877), marriage (1864-1930), and death records (1864-1877 and 1908-1955). (Oddly enough, nobody died in Nova Scotia between 1878 and 1907.)

This is the best thing to come out of Nova Scotia since ... the last good thing to come out of Nova Scotia.

Find French Forebears For Free

The Drouin Collection will be free to view at through the end of March.

The Drouin Collection represents the largest and most valuable French-Canadian family history resources available, including an impressive collection of Quebec vital records. The collection ranges from the beginning of European settlement to the 1940s, including the nearly 12 million records which marked the history of Quebec families over three centuries.
There's no name index, so you'd better have your high-school French teacher on speed dial. I was able to find the marriage record of my 3rd-great-grandparents Martial Laplante and Marie Parent in Van Buren, Maine, in about three minutes—but only because I already knew it was there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's Their Third Bird

You have to admire the British government's commitment to both genealogy and ornithology. Their DoVE (Digitisation of Vital Events) project is progressing nicely, with 40 million of 70 million historical UK birth records now included in the EAGLE (Electronic Access to GRO Legacy Events) database.

Yet another bird's name has been chosen as the acronym for the third project - MAGPIE (Multi Access to GRO Published Index of Events). This will provide online indexes to the newly digitised records, and will be accessible via the internet, hopefully by April 2008. [Link, via Featherstone Genealogy]
Their fourth project will undoubtedly be dubbed "PELICAN" (Project to Encourage Licentious Implementation of Cute Avian Names).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Bard Burns at Last

On Wednesday, the birth and marriage certificates of poet Robert Burns became the last available General Register Office for Scotland records to be digitized and placed online at ScotlandsPeople.

George Lyon, Deputy Public Services Minister, said the online publication of Burns's documents spearheaded a project which allowed people worldwide to capitalise on the growing interest in genealogical research and trace their Scots ancestry.

Mr Lyon said: "Scotland's old parochial records go back more than 450 years and include our national bard's birth and marriage certificates. These are the last set of registration documents to go online, marking the end of a £3m project to improve access to Scotland's records for genealogists worldwide." [Link]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Canadian Clippings

I've just learned from The Internet Guy that the New Brunswick Provincial Archives has added Daniel F. Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics to its website.

As someone who has thumbed through the 102 volumes of this collection at the Maine State Library, I know what a huge boon this will be to genealogists with roots in the Maritimes. What's most remarkable about the collection—aside from the fact that the compiler is, like me, a native of Maine—is that it was mostly a one-man project.

Danny worked persistently and comprehensively mining all English-language New Brunswick newspapers available in original form or on microfilm. He copied out notices of births, marriages, deaths, and also of ship wrecks, trips outside the province and many other events, all containing names that would further the search for an ancestor. The work is remarkably accurate although as Danny was not a strict proof reader, preferring to use his time to push ahead with indexing and transcribing, occasional typographical errors crept in. Danny sold many copies of the Vital Statistics volumes to libraries, historical societies and individuals over the years and maintained a list of on-going subscribers.

Danny kept the extracted information in a database to which he later added a search capability enabling him to provide a service to researchers who did not have access to the published volumes. In celebration of the first 100 volumes of Vital Statistics, he produced a CD index of the entire series. It is hard to convey what a monumental undertaking the vital statistics project was and what a unique and invaluable benefit it is to research. [Link]

Saturday, June 25, 2005

That's Too Much Information!

Genealogists researching Maine families sometimes run into a problem using the International Genealogical Index (IGI). When searching for a marriage record, they will sometimes find two records for the same couple, each bearing a different date, each recorded in a different town, and each transcribed from an original record. How can this be?

We in New England are spoiled with excellent town records of births, deaths, and marriages, dating back to the 17th century. Genealogists living elsewhere in the country, where jurisdiction over vital records lay with the county, and where recording requirements were lax in early years, should be envious. But, there is a price for this. Let's call it matrimonial overdetermination (or, on the other hand, let's not).

Here's an example. Charles B. Brooks of Oxford, Maine, and Roxana A. Cordwell of Greenwood, Maine, were betrothed in the spring of 1842. They were required by law to publish their intentions to marry in their towns of residence. So, in Greenwood a publishment—a publication of intentions—was entered on the books:

Intentions of Marriage between Mr Charles B Brooks of Oxford and Miss Roxana A Cordwell of Greenwood were Published in Greenwood April 26th 1842.
A similar notice was entered on the town books in Oxford, on April 30.

A couple of weeks passed, and no one objected to the marriage, so the town clerk in each town certified the couple's intentions—i.e. gave them a marriage certificate. In Greenwood, this happened on May 14, in Oxford on May 18.

The couple was married in Greenwood on May 22, 1842.

Here we have five different dates associated with the same event, only one of which is a marriage date. And it gets worse. Ministers were required to return a record of each marriage they performed to the clerk of the town where the ceremony took place. The marriage return was often dated (a sixth date) before it was recorded, at which time the clerk could affix another date (a seventh).

The Brooks marriage is also recorded in county marriage returns. Records of hundreds of other Maine marriages were returned to the state, and are now available on microfilm. And let's not forget contemporary newspaper accounts, Bible records, the records of ministers and Justices of the Peace, divorce records, pension files, etc.—all of them possible sources of marriage dates. Further, some marriages were recorded in more than one town, and could be returned to the county or state by any or all of those towns.

So, when different marriage dates appear in the IGI, recorded in different towns, often one of the records is a date of publishment or certification of intentions. One great flaw in the IGI is its failure to distinguish between actual marriage dates and dates preliminary to this (also a fault of the contributors, I suppose, who substituted an intention date wherever a marriage date couldn't be found).

There is one great advantage to finding and jotting down an ancestral couple's marriage intentions: intentions were almost always recorded chronologically, while marriage records were recorded as they filtered in from ministers and JPs in the community. Intentions are truly primary records—written down at the time of the event, probably with one or both of the marrying parties standing in the room. Marriage records, though legal and official, were copies of records kept by the officiators. (Charles and Roxana's marriage record is perhaps more authoritative than some others; they were married by the Greenwood town clerk.)

As genealogists, which should we prefer: many, possibly conflicting, records of a marriage; or one record, perhaps inaccurate, but also irrefutable? There should be no question. Despite the possibility of conflict, it's always better to have more data than less.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

British Vital Records Outsourced

From the (Manchester, England) Guardian Unlimited:

Population database will move to India

Protests at offshore move for lists of births, marriages and deaths

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
Thursday June 23, 2005
The Guardian

A database containing details of every birth, marriage and death in England and Wales since 1837 - all 250m of them - is to be transferred to India in one of the biggest offshore contracting deals ever to be signed by the government.

The controversial deal - due to be signed in a fortnight - is going ahead despite criticism from MPs, peers and trade unions that to transfer the information could be illegal, could put people's personal data at risk and could lead to inaccuracies in historical registers.


The MPs also questioned whether the move was lawful without a new act of parliament because the Births and Deaths Registration Act forbids the information leaving England and Wales. Evidence was also given to them suggesting that an Indian workforce may have difficulty spelling complex Welsh and English names.


[Read the whole story]
How hard could it be for them to spell English names? Could it be any harder than spelling Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lost Souls

Buried in Maine vital records (those between 1892 and 1955 are readily available on microfilm) are dozens of death records few genealogists consider. Lacking surnames, they are filed under "U" for "Unknown," and include some of the most disturbing cases of crime and misadventure the state has witnessed.

A large proportion of the records are of infanticides. The exact place of discovery was usually noted—often a river or seashore, a pasture or woods. Newborns were found in a box, "in a tin dinner pail," and in a "kettle in Back Bay." They were found in the bushes in Houlton, a snow bank in Portland.

Another large category of deaths includes travelers, transients, and tramps, who often found their end on the railroad tracks. A boy of about 17 years died in Clinton after "falling from MCRR train, while riding between freight cars." A tramp was killed in Berwick "by striking overhead bridge on B & M Railroad." Another died at Long Pond who was "Evidently stealing a ride." The death record of a man killed by the cars at Wells while "Attempting to board or alight from a moving train" is made more poignant by the notation that he was "by tools found in his pocket supposed a shoe laster."

Sometimes a first name is given. A man "Called John" died in Hermon of heart disease in 1901. The records of adult deaths are almost always for men, but there are a few women, the deaths of some filed here because their married names were unknown, though their given names and even their parents are noted. Both first and last names are given for nine bodies transferred from "P. M. S. to Bowdoin Medical School" in 1921. (Presumably "P. M. S." stands for Portland Medical School. Why these death records are filed here is unexplained.)

In the fall of 1920, sixteen woodsmen died when their motor boat caught fire crossing Chesuncook Lake. Seventeen others were saved. Of the dead—many of them Lithuanian immigrants—five found their way into the Unknown file, identified only as #1, #4, #14, #16, and #19.

An especially sad case is that of a 72-year-old man, thought to be a Maine native, who died at the National Soldier's Home (now the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center) Nov. 18, 1916. One hopes that he found his way home.

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